From the stalls to the stage
Glyndebourne Members Safoura and Jean-Marie Clément, parents of director Mariame Clément, tell us about the family's earliest trips to the Festival
The Cléments first visited the Festival in the 1970s, for a fateful performance of Don Giovanni, ‘When the orchestra started playing the first chords of the overture, we understood something big was happening… Besides musical and theatrical perfection, we were amazed by the highest degree of professionalism. We immediately applied to become Members.’
It wasn’t long before they were sharing their new discovery: ‘We communicated our enthusiasm to so many friends and members of the family. Among them, and first of all, to our daughter Mariame who became a big fan. This doubtless decided her future. How could we foresee that one day she would become an opera director, and more specifically would actually work for the Festival?’
That’s right, Mariame, the young fan of Glyndebourne, grew up to be the acclaimed director Mariame Clément, the creative force behind our much-loved production of Don Pasquale, and Festival 2021’s brand new staging of Il turco in Italia.
Mariame recalls, ‘My parents would disappear for a few days each summer after having packed the car with fancy clothes and picnic gear, and return with enchanted memories and glamorous photographs. Then finally I was allowed to go along. It was a revelation: the gardens, the picnic, the incredibly perfect performances. But most of all, I distinctly remember looking up at mysterious windows, hearing singers warm up in the “staff only” areas – they were so close, yet it felt like such a mysterious, attractive and unattainable world. Now, every time I return to Glyndebourne, I have to pinch myself: I am one of them.’
And the Glyndebourne obsession doesn’t end with Mariame: ‘We were lucky to babysit our granddaughter Lily when Mariame staged Don Pasquale and Poliuto’, say Safoura and Jean-Marie; ‘Glyndebourne’s gardens soon became Lily’s playgrounds. Three generations of opera freaks and Glyndebourne lovers. May I say we found a second home for the whole family? What incredible luck!’
Written by Andrew Batty, Glyndebourne’s Digital Content Editor. This article originally appeared in the Festival 2021 edition of the Glyndebourne Programme Book.